In the weeks and months prior to January 12th I was trying hard to finally get my act together and get my Kreyol skills to a passable point. (Don't ask me why I waited almost four years to do that.) Paige and Britt and Troy all kicked my butt and made me look pretty pathetic and I had decided it was time to work hard at learning the language and quit making excuses about my little kids taking too much of my time.
I loved going to Kreyol class and enjoyed finally being able to communicate. Everything seemed so much easier with some language skills. Outside of learning grammar and pronunciation we also learned cultural sayings and proverbs along with lots of insider cultural information from our instructor.
Word of mouth communication is huge in Haiti. Most people don't have TV and many will have cell phones but no ability to consistently put minutes on their phone. People pass important information with great skill by word of mouth. In the past, if we wanted to locate someone it would be as simple as getting the word out to someone with a connection to the community we *thought* the person was in ... within a few days the person we were looking for would appear.
The system is amazing and unique and most often works for good. The downside is that untrue things can be spread this way. Shortly after the earthquake rumors of a giant, killer tsunami spread throughout Port au Prince like wildfire. There was panic and fear and it was all based off of word of mouth rumor that no one could substantiate. Friends of ours told us that where they were- people were running in the street screaming that the water was coming.
In Haiti if you heard it by word of mouth or through the rumor mill it is called "Radyo Tran-n de" (Radio 32). Radyo 32 is in reference to the 32 teeth in your mouth and is a way of saying that you heard it from someone's mouth. As the weeks unfold into months and the Haitian people learn to navigate the new Haiti, we hope the truth will be known and spread. Living in fear is exhausting. We hope that won't be the way Haitians are forced to live.The Kreyol way to say earthquake is- tranbleman de te a - or literally translated, "shaking of the earth". As we walked around talking to friends and neighbors and injured people after the quake, we often asked if they suffered their injury before, during, or after the shaking of the earth. We asked about their family. In Haitian culture when you see someone after a long time you always ask them how their family is. This is the second question you ask after asking how they are. After the earthquake this is even more important and culturally sensitive. When asked, many of them would share their story about where they were and what their experience was on January 12th. People need to talk about it and each one experienced it in their own unique way. Just listening to people share their experience felt important. If you're going to Haiti in the coming months it would mean a lot to just listen to the stories and in whatever limited way possible to show concern and sympathy for their trauma, suffering, and great loss.
Troy and I were blessed to meet Joel and Rachel over Christmas. We were gathering together with a group of other expats to celebrate Advent and Joel and Rachel were an adorable young couple that were celebrating their first Haiti-Christmas. As we shared with them and listened to them over a subsequent dinner I could not help but feel that they were really having a rough start in Haiti ... after they left our house we talked about their strength and grace in dealing with some pretty hard things for people in their twenties. We agreed that at that age we were nowhere near so mature. That was all before the earthquake. Their hard start in Haiti had only just begun. Rachel wrote today about their experience in the earthquake as their building tumbled down and they were left to figure out how to survive. I hope you'll take time to pray for these beautiful people and for God's healing in their lives. I cannot imagine what these days have been like for them.
Prior to the trembling of the earth I would have bragged to you about how much Haiti had taught me patience. I would have told you I was a very changed person due to the speed of the culture and the ways it forced us to wait so often. Today I don't feel that patience at all. I feel uncomfortable in my own skin and I am desperately restless.
As it turns out, I am not patient. Not at all. Open-ended uncertainty requires a faith level that I have not yet attained. Truthfully, my false sense of knowing the future gave me false comfort that I falsely trusted - and - I want all of that falseness back!
An earthquake survivor from a 1976 earthquake wrote to us to tell us that the way her parents came undone after the earthquake changed the course of their family. She encouraged us to deal with it and get help. We don't want to be "undone" and we don't want to do that to our kids... yet now we're here physically with them - but emotionally I often feel a million miles away. The most precious moments in our day are the rare times we can set aside our own stuff and just enjoy the beauty of the amazing children God has given us. This morning when Isaac said something silly, Hope excitedly exclaimed, "MOM! I saw you smile!"
We want to give our kids the time and attention they need. We believe the counseling is going to be important for us. We hope that we are starting that next week. We found the people we want to use and are just waiting on the appointments to be confirmed. Overall we feel that our kids are doing pretty well. Lydia shows the most outward signs of fear and insecurity and is much, much more clingy than the Lydia of early January. Paige has agreed to talk to someone. The other four kids are really doing pretty well and verbalizing things better than a few days ago. They are insightful and wise. Isaac and Noah seem most concerned with whether or not Peanut is still our dog. "Is she our dog when we're not with her?" It is a question that can be filed in the same giant drawer with, "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" These are the great questions of our time.
We know that our house in Haiti currently needs to be a place for volunteers and that it is not a good place or environment to raise kids. To go back there when we don't have much control over who comes and goes at our own home is a bad idea. We have legal paperwork to work out on Phoebe's adoption. There are all sorts of things to fill our time and they are tangible valid reasons to be here in Texas ... but none of them make it much easier being here.
Our friend Corrigan nailed it on the head. Staying in the thick of the work and staying busy was key to not thinking or feeling. That business of DOING something insulated us from the range of emotions we're drowning in right now. Rather than become a broken annoying overplayed horribly boring record, I will try to go back to story telling and leave the emotion-dumping for the counselors.
We've been calling home to talk to Jeronne every other day. (She has worked with our family for almost the entire time we've been in Haiti.) It always ends in Jeronne and I bawling on the phone together. I love her ... so much. She and I are the same age but I feel fiercely protective of her and hate that we abandoned her. I wish the governments of this world would allow for humans to present human situations and then they could respond with fair, loving, humanity. Friends of ours cannot even get their long-time spouses out of Haiti to go see their American children right now, so we knew there was no way we could convince anyone to let Jeronne come with us for a while. Tonight on the phone Jeronne told us that the radio and Digicel has been telling them there will be more earthquakes. Tipap told Troy the same thing and then told him that tomorrow is a day to fast and pray for Haiti.
Our hearts and prayers are with the men, women and children of Haiti ...
I found their struggles to be enormous and unjust before this catastrophe. And now!?!?
Please pray with us. Please keep looking for organizations you believe in and give when your heart prompts you to give. I have always been drawn to smaller grass-roots organizations. To me their work is more tangible, more personal. Of course the large international organizations are helping too, but if you're searching for places to give where you can know the names and faces of those putting your money to work, and where you can cut out a lot of overhead and administration costs, please check these out:
Real Hope for Haiti
The Apparent Project
Joy in Hope
and of course Heartline Ministries.
Photos: Troy Livesay